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The ten best Manchester movies

Our list of the ten best films set in Manchester

By Rob Martin

From industrial powerhouse to booming cultural hub, the North of England’s greatest city has always held a magnetic attraction for artists, musicians and storytellers. So it’s no surprise that Manchester’s history on film is crammed with popular classics, from hard-hitting realist dramas to coal-black comedies, plus the occasional zombie…

24 Hour Party People (2002)

Film Drama

The greatest modern Manchester story of them all, the rise and fall of Factory Records, becomes a gangbusters black comedy in the hands of director Michael Winterbottom. This cosmic carnival of excess, banter, musical genius and blink-and-miss-em cameos comes complete with a hero-talks-to-God moment so perfect it’d make Charlton Heston choke on his chips: ‘You were right about Mick Hucknall. His music's rubbish, and he's a ginger’. Amen! 

Manc-est line: ‘We obviously have nothing in common. I'm a genius, you're all fucking wankers.’

East Is East (1999)

Film Comedy

‘Oh, east is east and west is west and never the twain shall meet’ wrote Rudyard Kipling, somewhat short-sightedly. His axiom has since been disproved by decades of comfortable integration, which is the central theme of Ayub Khan-Din’s witty, good-natured and nostalgic-with-an-edge tale of an interracial marriage in 1970s Salford.

Manc-est line: ‘Piss of out of my house, and take Laurel and Hardy with you.’


A Taste of Honey (1961)


Ah, the British New Wave of the 1960s: an entire decade of dodgy oop-north accents, adolescent angst and issues-based filmmaking. Based on Shelagh Delaney’s cause-celebre stage play, ‘A Taste of Honey’ may not have survived as well as some of its contemporaries – its pretty patronising towards its sexually profligate teenage heroine – but as a window into a lost world, it’s absolutely fascinating.

Manc-est line: ‘I hope to be dead and buried by the time I reach your age. Just think you've been living for forty years!’

Hell Is a City (1960)


As the kitchen-sink movement gained momentum, even Hammer tried to get in on the act with this convincingly grimy police procedural. The plot may be age-old – smart cop Stanley Baker guesses correctly that a recently escaped convict will return home to recover his lost spoils – but the execution still feels bracing, particularly in the depiction of Baker’s troubled home life.

Manc-est line: ‘You’d rather be in a pub than at home, with low women sitting round the bar!’


Control (2007)

Film Drama

In stark contrast to ’24 Hour Party People’, the Ian Curtis story is here rendered as pristine coffee-table angst under the GQ-cover lens of photographer Anton Corbijn. Worth a place on this list for its rapturous depiction of backstreets and housing estates, it’s so damnably self-important that you can’t help feeling Curtis would have pissed himself laughing.

Manc-est line: ‘Side effects include drowsiness, apathy, and blurred vision... I'm taking two.’

Hobson's Choice (1954)

Film Comedy

David Lean’s feisty adaptation of Harold Brighouse’s play took Manchester movies onto the world stage: the film won the Golden Bear at the 1954 Berlin Film Festival, and Best Film at the BAFTAs shortly afterwards. Charles Laughton is his usual sly, corpulent and magisterial self as the tyrannical shopkeeper cursed with three headstrong daughters.

Manc-est line: ‘There’s been a gradual increase of uppishness towards me.’


Looking For Eric (2009)

Film Comedy

Is there a more Mancunian image than Eric Cantona chatting on a rooftop to former Fall bassist Steve Evets? Sure, the footballer may be from France or somewhere originally, but dammit if he isn’t a Manc at heart. Ken Loach’s oddball fantasy explores hero-worship and everyday desperation with the lightest of touches.

Manc-est line: ‘I'm up to here with your philosophy. I'm still getting over the fucking seagulls!’

The Living Dead at the Manchester Morgue (1974)

Film Horror

Okay, so only the first few minutes actually take place in Manchester. But there’s never been a funkier depiction of the city on film, as hippie-haired Ray Lovelock bolts up his antiques shop, fires up his Norton motorbike and thunders through Piccadilly to the groovy strains of Giuliano Sorgini’s giallo score, on his way to a rendezvous with a zombie invasion.

Manc-est line: ‘I wish the dead could come back to life, you bastard, so then I could kill you again.’

Strumpet - Manchester Movies

Strumpet (2001)

It was shot for TV, but Danny Boyle’s just-about-feature-length performance movie fully deserves a place on this list, if only for Christopher Eccleston’s punchy recitation of Manc legend John Cooper Clarke’s profanity-strewn poem ‘Evidently Chickentown’. Eccleston plays a wordsmith who teams up with a guitar playing girl (Jenna G) to form a musical duo, and ends up on Top of the Pops.

Manc-est line: ‘You’re nowt but a fleabitten mongrel, you know that?’

Love on the Dole (1941)


The first notable Manchester movie – it’s actually set in Salford – is an appropriately dour and contrary piece of work. Released during the war, when filmmakers were supposed to be love-bombing British audiences with jolly, patriotic escapism, the film is instead a bleak, insightful depiction of depression, poverty and pre-marital sex. Needless to say, it wasn’t a big hit.

Manc-est line: ‘You marry for love and find you've let yourself in for a seven day a week job with no pay. And you don't find it out 'til it's too late.’

Top 25 summer films of 2015

Avengers: Age of Ultron

Film Action and adventure

Director: Joss Whedon

Cast: Robert Downey Jr, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Hemsworth

When Tony Stark aka Iron Man creates the world’s first functioning artificial intelligence, Ultron, he doesn’t expect the machine to go rogue and try to wipe out humanity. He clearly hasn’t seen many movies. Expect writer-director Joss Whedon to spice up this classic sci-fi storyline with fresh ideas, snappy dialogue and furious action as the Avengers grudgingly reunite to tackle this deadly foe.

Far from the Madding Crowd

Film Drama

Director: Thomas Vinterberg

Cast: Carey Mulligan, Matthias Schoenaerts, Michael Sheen

Wax your moustaches and polish up your swordstick for the latest take on Thomas Hardy’s timeless tale of love among the sheep-pens in nineteenth-century England. Mulligan plays Bathsheba Everdene, the farm girl turned landowner torn between three suitors: honest shepherd Oake (Matthias Schoenaerts), strapping soldier Troy (Tom Sturridge) and kindly but dull aristocrat Boldwood (Michael Sheen).


Mad Max: Fury Road

Film Action and adventure

Director: George Miller

Cast: Tom Hardy, Charlize Theron, Nicholas Hoult

Original director George Miller has recruited an all-new Max – British beefcake Tom Hardy – but retained the apocalyptic Australian setting, marauding mutant villains and thunderous dune-buggy chase sequences for this belated franchise reboot. Charlize Theron plays a mercenary tasked with chaperoning a busload of women through the wasteland, with only the Road Warrior standing between her and a tribe of psychotic petrolhead cannibals.

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